Falling is My Best Friend

Let me just say that I am scared of headstands.

I’ve seen youtube videos and can visualize it in my head. I’ve read my Ashtanga book a gazillion times and know what I have to do to enter that pose. I’ve annoyed my husband to the point where I should just shut up and do it.

I even tried the pose on the left and I still couldn’t do it!

But I don’t. I tried twice and got so giddy that my legs were actually off the floor I probably forgot to engage my core.  Then I fall. The last time I fell I actually crashed into my wardrobe and ripped my yoga manual. argh. I was so mad I rushed through the finishing postures and fumed all throughout savasana.

I question myself whether or not I am good at this asana stuff.  I mean, I’ve been practicing Ashtanga regularly for almost a year now and still can do this! For goodness sake, I’m able to do tolasana and I think that’s harder!

But then again,doing a headstand forces you to change perspective. Being turned upside down is scary. So maybe I’m scared of being upside down?

I know I keep harping on this, but this is yet another sign that I need to find a yoga teacher. I can’t put it off any longer. If I do, I might as well give up on this whole yoga journey.

Reflections After One Month of a 6-Day Ashtanga Yoga Practice

sarah li cain -mumbled jumbles -reflections

I don’t know what made me do it, but a voice inside my head one day literally told that that this was a good idea.  To be honest, I had no excuses why I couldn’t. I know I had the time to spare.

I’ve wanted to further my Ashtanga yoga practice for a while now. Heck, I read enough blogs that talk about it! I remember looking all the Sanskrit names of random poses or theories and wanted to learn more. Maybe it was one of those things where if I wanted to talk the talk, I should learn how to walk the walk. So every morning, except for Saturdays and moon days, I dutifully rolled out my mat and practiced.

I started off by doing a shorter version of the primary series using David Swenson’s awesome DVD for about two weeks. After practicing with this DVD on and off for almost a year now, I had the nagging feeling that I was moving beyond the DVD.  I don’t want to say that the routine was too easy. Rather, I wanted to explore more poses and didn’t want to get too comfortable with someone doing the breath count for me. I found myself getting easily distracted because in the back of my mind, if I lose count, the DVD was there to do it for me.

I’m loving the self guided practice so far. I’ve been religiously looking over David’s Swenson’s practice manual on the poses and pouring over youtube videos. I think I am doing well so far despite the fact that I do not have a teacher helping me. I’m not saying it has been easy. In fact, quite the opposite. There have been days where I absolutely refused to get on the mat, but I did. There were a few times where I’ve lost count, or forget how to do a pose that I’m familiar with, or  what I had to do next. Those are the days I struggle and have to compose myself until I get to the end of my asana practice.

A month isn’t a long time, but I find that I’m getting more courageous by the day. I either try to go deeper into a pose or want to add another one. I get up earlier. I even do more off the mat. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching this past month and have finally pushed myself to do something I’ve been hesitant to do. And that’s a very exciting prospect. If I feel this way after a month, I wonder what other things will start to unfold a few weeks, months, or years from now?

I know the next step for me is to find a teacher. Maybe even a mentor, on and off the mat. I know at some point I will stall or hold myself back. I have a feeling I’ll need someone to push me towards something bigger and greater. I want to grow. I want to improve. One step at a time, I guess. One step at a time.

Photography and Yoga Part 2

Ever since I wrote a post about how photography and yoga are similar, I’ve been thinking about writing more in this topic for a while. True to form, my short term memory kicked in and obviously forgot it for a while. Also true to form, my memory comes at the weirdest times and luckily I only shouted when I was by myself when I exclaimed said that I should really write another post for this topic.

I’ve covered some of the mental/spiritual side of photography and yoga, and I was thinking if there are any commonalities between asanas and photography.  Then I thought of an article I read ages ago about ‘funny’ photographer poses.  Now I have ventured far and wide in the past to get  a good photo, and quite possibly squatted or looked weird when trying to capture a scene. I can safely say though, that I never stood/squatted/sat taking a photo that resembled anything like yoga poses graced in the likes of Yoga Journal.

 
Well go ahead, decide for yourself if the following poses some photographers get into look like asanas you and I might be practicing.

Yin Yoga Dragonfly Pose

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Goddess Pose

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Uttanpadansana

 

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Can Yoga Transend Barriers?

It wasn’t easy finding quality yoga instruction when I was in Shenzhen. By that I meant that it was close to impossible to find a teacher who spoke English. When I started practicing regularly 4 years ago, I wasn’t totally bought into the practice. I went to a nice studio, but I felt quite alienated because my Chinese speaking skills were pretty much non-existent. I’d always be at the back of the room, and look at the instructor and those around me to figure out what poses to maneuver into next. I had a sciatic nerve issue once and I was too scared to try and ask how to modify poses to prevent further straining it. Did I breathe ‘properly’ during vinyasa classes? Heck no! I’d go to a class, sweat for a an hour, rush to the showers, and leave as fast as I could. Even the 5 minutes of waiting before the classes was a chore. Add to the fact that many of the patrons that frequent this place were all staring at everyone one else, like they were competing to see who was the best at yoga. Many come in these haute couture yoga outfits, and I swear these two ladies were going to have it out one day because they happen to sit beside one another and they wore the same outfit.

I kept going back because I wanted to be active, and I paid a lot of money for a two year membership (kind of stupid in retrospect, I know).

Don’t get me wrong, the instructors were always friendly to me, but it was hard to connect in any way because of the language barriers, or so I thought.

Her name is 李杭生 (Shanti). I never once addressed her by her name.

Enter the teacher above. I went to about two of her classes before she tried to talk to me. I remember having to sit at the front of the class (sacrilege!) and she tried to ask me how long I’ve been doing yoga. Luckily there was a nice lady who spoke some English to translate.  I remember feeling really embarrassed over the whole thing. I did the usual, rush out of class and back home as quickly as I can.

One Sunday, I signed up for another one of her early morning classes.  I did what I usually do and sat at the back. She enters and closes the door. We both realize then and there that I was the only student there that showed up for the class! She must have remembered me because she smiled and motioned for me to pick a mat at the front of the room. I would have loved then and there to bolt out of the room, but I’m sure I would never be able to show up at this place again if I had done that.  We sit down and she tries to talk to me. I try to reply in English.

Then, a miracle of sorts happened. She started breathing in and out, and motions for me to do so. We breathe in silence for a bit. Then she starts inhaling and says “inhale”, both in English and Chinese. She does the same when she exhales.  Instead of sitting at her usual spot, she sits at the mat beside me and motions for me to look at her. She demonstrates the pose she wants to teach me and shows when to inhale and exhale. I do the same.  If I didn’t need any modifications, she does a thumbs up and smiles. If I didn’t do something correctly, she does the pose again until I do it ‘correctly’. At the end of the class we sat and chanted ‘om’ three times together.

Instead of rushing out, I bowed and said thank you in Chinese and she said it back to me in English.

In subsequent classes, she always had a full room, but made sure to stop by me and check I was doing my poses correctly. I learned to breathe properly because I learned what those words were in Chinese.

She was one of the first locals that I was able to connect with and made my time in China easier. And I am very grateful for that.

If you are ever in Shenzhen, she now teaches at Hotz Yoga. They apparently have instructors that speak English now.

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Moving Forward

I’ll admit, I was emotional this morning. I had shed a few tears, overwhelmed by something I don’t really know. In the past I would have used this as an excuse to not do any yoga and allow myself to wallow in the depths of my sadness, or whatever it was. Today I didn’t. I let myself sit and breathe, shed the tears, roll out the mat and tried my best to put my distracting thoughts away for the hour I was practicing. After savasana (corpse pose), I felt better. I even concentrated with my full heart hearing the closing prayer today.  I was immediately proud of myself. Why? Well because I feel like I’ve grown after this one practice. I didn’t let myself use any excuse to stop myself from doing something that benefited me. I sucked it up and got over myself. Even in times of sadness and turmoil, people need to pick themselves whenever and wherever they can and try to live life.

Afterwards, I watched a cool Kino video and read an article about David Swenson and his journey into yoga.  What I got from both posts was that yoga will find you, and when you are ready, things will come.  I’ve been practicing on and off for a few years now, and am now finally falling in love with Ashtanga yoga.  I would love to dwell on the past and what I could have done to get to where I am now, in terms of my practice and life in general. But I have to focus on the present and move forward. Don’t have doubt. The answers are there when I am ready for them.

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My Class at Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

I was a bit nervous going yesterday to the Ashtanga yoga class because I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to do an hour and a half of it. Plus, I haven’t been practicing much as I’d like to lately and there are still lots of poses I haven’t attempted yet.  But, I promised myself I’d give this a try, and as a treat (because it is sooo darn expensive at 260 HKD!!!) I got myself a class this month.

Walking into the hotel I already felt like a swanky person.  Just something about walking beyond the concierge at  a five star luxury hotel just oozes awesomeness. Plus, five star hotels do this lovely thing where they pump a wonderful scent (Shangri-la does this, we luckily recieved a room scent hamper by a manager here and I feel like I’m in heaven every time we spray it on our sheets) and I was just in love.  I’m probably a bit silly this way, but I don’t care.

The yoga studio is on the fifth floor, which is part of the spa.  Now, if anyone has ever walked into a spa part of a five star hotel (yes, I keep mentioning this, but this was all I thought about, really!) you would know how awesome and calm it is. The staff were very friendly, and after I signed up an attendant kindly walked me through the change rooms and all that junk. Let just say that the showers are just fantastic! People who live in Asian countries can understand that when most of time you have water simply dribbling out of the shower head, it’s nice to have a nice shower with good water pressure. Oh and the towels! The towels!

Alright, I digress, but I just loooovvvvvvveeeee (did I mention love?) fancy towels and all things awesome from nice hotels. Let’s go on to the actual yoga studio and class.

The yoga studio is not large at all.I’d say max it’d hold about 15 people, which is fine by me. If I’m paying a lot of money for a class, I’d certainly want a more intimate setting.  The day I went there were about 6 people, so the teacher had plenty of time for adjusting and all that junk. Mats and towels are all set up for you, but I brought my own non slip yoga towel because I know I get sweaty palms. They also provide water, tea and fruit for you before and after your practice.

I forgot how much I enjoyed a yoga class. I know when I practice by myself I still struggle with keeping my mind focused and remembering the routine.  I felt comfortable with the led Ashtanga yoga class because I was able to concentrate on going into asanas and remember what was next.  The teacher (Siu Shan) was very nice, and asked questions and pushed me just enough to get me deeper into postures. There were some that I never knew I could do! I did certain poses and she asked me to do the full asana, and I felt elated when I was able to go in and out of them smoothly.  I also felt like I fed off the energy off the other students, and realizing I was able to do more than half the primary series makes me feel a sense of accomplishment.

I few things I learned from attending this class.

-A DVD can NEVER replace the guidance of a teacher, especially when trying new poses. I still enjoy Swenson’s DVD as a guide. I think next time I go I will ask the teacher to help me into a full headstand.

-Attending a yoga class really motivates me. I know I have to trek all the way to HK Central for this, but it’s worth it.

-I can do more than what I give myself credit for sometimes. I think this also translates into all parts of my life.

-I LOVE the ‘high’ I get after yoga class.

-There is nothing wrong with being sore the next day. It’s a sign I’ve worked my body good and hard.

-Be ready with LOTS of water to drink afterwards.

-I sweat a lot (haha!).

The verdict. I will DEFINITELY go again.  Aside from the fact that this is one of the only places with Ashtanga yoga classes (and the only one with certified teachers in Hong Kong), it is a nice setup, the staff are friendly, the ammenities are wonderful, and the teacher was nice.  Such a relaxing vibe, and I can’t help but giggle every time I walk out the door and there is a fancy doorman opening the door and greeting me. I’m weird I know.

You don’t need to register, just drop in about 15 minutes (or earlier, I went at about 30min before) and sign up.  You pay when you leave. For more information, check out their website.

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